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Dyspareunia is recurrent or persistent genital pain before, during, or after sex. It can be acquired or congenital, generalized or situational. Dyspareunia is not a disease, but rather a symptom of an underlying issue such as a physical, biological, psychological, social and/or relationship concern.

A woman with dyspareunia will usually report experiencing pain. Some women describe feeling pain at the opening of the vagina or on the surface of the vulva when penetration is initiated. Other women may feel pain within the pelvis upon deeper penetration. Some women feel pain in more than one of these places. Determining whether the pain is more superficial or deep is important in understanding what may be causing it and provide options for more effective treatment.

When the pain occurs, a woman with dyspareunia may be distracted from feeling pleasure and excitement during sex. Due to the persistent experience of pain during sex, a woman may still experience pain during sex even long after the original source of pain has disappeared, simply because in her mind she expects to.
Dyspareunia is a condition that has many causes and is not a diagnosis of itself. Some of the causes for dyspareunia may include: vaginismus, which is a condition that affects a woman’s ability to tolerate vaginal penetration, insufficient vaginal lubrication, vaginal thinning and dryness of the vaginal wall. Medical conditions such as endometriosis, cancer, ovarian cysts, fibroid tumors, sexually transmitted infections, pain from bladder irritation, etc., an injury to the genital area or past surgeries that have left scar tissue can also result in vaginal pain. Inadequate foreplay and certain sexual positions can also be the cause of dyspareunia.

Some symptoms of dyspareunia may include a burning, ripping, tearing, or aching feeling associated with vaginal penetration. The pain may also be felt throughout the entire pelvic area and the sexual organs, especially during deep thrusting or with certain sexual positions.

Treatment for dyspareunia is aimed at identifying the underlying source of pain. Depending on the root cause, treatment options include: estrogen therapy, sex therapy, and medication. Unfortunately, there is no definite way to prevent dyspareunia, but here are some options that may help you reduce your risk for dyspareunia and/or manage the pain:

  • being intimately acquainted with your body
  • communicating with your partner
  • communicating with your physician regarding any changes in your body
  • engaging in more foreplay
  • using more lubricant
  • changing how you feel about sex by making it fun
  • using proper hygiene habits and staying away from using perfumed products in the genital area

Because symptoms of dyspareunia may mimic symptoms of other reproductive health conditions, including sexually transmitted infections, it is extremely important that you speak with your physician and/or sex therapist about your concerns. DO NOT try to diagnose yourself! Your true condition may not be what you think and you can potentially end up doing more harm to yourself and your body.

Many women will experience relief when physical causes of dyspareunia are identified and treated. However, it is extremely important to also identify and address psychological, social, spiritual, or relationship factors that may be contributing to the pain as well.

Living with dyspareunia is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about! The condition can be manageable if you are proactive and stay on top of your health. Learn all you can about dyspareunia, work with you physician and/or sex therapist to get treatment and communicate your needs to partner. You can still maintain a quality sex life, as long as you are willing to go the extra mile to reduce the pain.


**Syndicated Content: Originally written by Dr. TaMara for MadameNoire.**